Thursday, November 29, 2007

Creating a Read-Write Culture

Things have been quiet on my end in terms of the blog because I am in the process of writing a cookbook. A very, very small cookbook but one that requires any extra typing and thinking time I have. I am taking a cookbook writing course sponsored by Media Bistro and instructed by Corinne Trang. Corinne is teaching the class so much in a short four weeks, things about creating and structuring a recipe that I never realized while reading and using many of them. I'm really enjoying the process of just sitting with one set of ingredients and instructions for a good, long while, figuring out what to say and what not to say, and really thinking about why I would want to share a recipe, the story behind it. I'm reading the two cookbooks by my bed, Corinne's Essentials of Asian Cuisine: Fundamentals and Favorite Recipes and Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe in a new light, amazed by the amount of detail, thought, and love that goes onto every page. I admit, I first loved cookbooks mostly because I just loved eating and wanted to make something to eat. That's definitely still true but now that I'm trying to write my own recipes and figure out what I want to say with a collection of them, I truly realize what an all-consuming, creative endeavor it can be, even separate from the cooking and eating (although, of course, eating will always be my favorite thing to do).

Anyways, when I opened a window to create this post, I intended to write a sentence or two about the class and just share this letter from Kristin Hersh about how being a culture of either producer or consumer is completely outmoded and how blogging and blogging about food in particular is really an enterprise of community, sharing, blurring, if not obliterating, the lines between reader and writer. But then I just had a whole bunch I wanted to say. It's always cool to be surprised as you're writing. It happens to me all the time. I really never know what I'll say until I do, no matter how sure I am of a point as it sits in my head. That's the funnest part. So, this isn't about food per se, but it is about sharing and art and that's all a part, a huge part, of food. So here are parts of Kristin's letter, which you can read in its entirety here. Then please listen to, share, and play around with her song "Slippershell."

As many of you may already know, CASH is an acronym -- it stands for the Coalition of Artists & Stake Holders. The name indicates just what we're all hoping to build here -- a coalition through which we blur the line that's traditionally stood between creators of content and the consumers of that content...

We're all stake holders here. We all stand to gain from a productive relationship. Maybe it will help to think of this relationship as a conversation...

Art is by nature a conversation. I'd like us to make it a community. Think about what you have to offer. Read-only culture is not enough anymore. We'd like you to treat this stuff as read-write...

What does read-write mean? Maybe as you're listening to "Slippershell", you're inspired to DO something: paint a picture, write an essay, make a video, remix, or even re-record the song. Please do so.

Friday, November 16, 2007

What Nigella Lawson Said to Me

After hell, high water, and rush hour traffic, I made it to the Whole Foods on the Bowery by 7 pm on the dot for the Nigella Lawson book signing. I had planned to get there a bit earlier so I could eat dinner at one of the many food stops in Whole Foods--which is built more like a mammoth Jersey mall rather than even your average gargantuan supermarket--before waiting on the line. But my plans were no match for the Lincoln Tunnel at 5 pm.

When I arrived, the line was already quite long. All I wanted to do was sit and eat one of the many vegetarianorganicfreetradeglutenfree power bars I was standing by, or at least one of the scented candles, which might have tasted better. I was so hungry and tired. But I had a mission to get a book signed and knew I could hit up the food bars afterwards.

I've met a few celebrities, or at least people who are somewhat well known and do work I admire. But I never really want to sit and talk with them. What will I say that isn't incredibly dorky? And by the time I think of something great to say, my 30 seconds with the sharpie will be up. I'm over my adolescent celebrity worship, that feeling that I just know someone, that they're actually heroic. We're all just people. But some are extradordinary and get some attention for it and it would be disingenuous to say I haven't been shaped by that.

I don't think I'd be interested in food writing or even doing this blog if I hadn't come across Nigella Lawson's books a few years back. Yeah, I've always loved to eat (too much so) so it's not like I was uninterested in food before dipping my toe, just a little, in the foodie world. I've always been really aware of food. It wasn't, however, until I started cooking more than pancakes and scrambled eggs for myself, learned to read and follow recipes, and referred to various food magazines and cookbooks, that I actually brokered some sort of peace with my relationship with food. I stopped feeling as guilty about sometimes being a glutton and saw it as both a new hobby and a way to sustain my body, just as we all do. Prior to that, food was some weird, painful punishing reward. Now I'm not as controlled by food and I enjoy it more. I have to eat and I'm lucky I can afford to eat everyday and have access to such an amazing variety of food so I might as well lose the guilt trip. Funny, the seemingly two extremes of foodieness and doing Weight Watchers taught me that.

I'm by no means totally resolved. I still want chocolate, bread, and cheese, and lots of it, when I feel stressed or depressed (only really, really high levels of panic can still my appetite). I've gained some "love" pounds, as people say, since being with Brian but it's really just because I stopped running and started eating out a lot more. I, like most women, regularly plan and scheme about what I can do to be thinner. But I'm a lot happier now, and more realistic, than say, 10 years ago in the food department. Everyone has their thing. One of mine happens to be food and eating it. There are worse vices, and lesser joys.

So, here's how it went.

Nigella: Hello.
Me: [dorkily, really, really dorkily] Hello. I'm such a huge fan so it's really great to meet you.
Nigella: Thank you. [reading the post-it of my name one of the organizers put on my book so she'd know how to sign it] You have such a beautiful name.
Me: [beaming] Oh, thank you!
[silence and then someone tells me to get behind the table if I want my picture taken. Nigella tells her she's getting very good at taking pictures. The girl takes our picture].
Me: Thank you very much. Have a good night.
Nigella: Thank you. You too.

She is so gorgeous in person. Incredibly porcelain skin, great posture, lovely smile, very gracious. Brian asked if she'd really be as hot in person as she is on TV with all the lighting and yes, she was. When I told him about the signing and I said, "She's so beautiful." He said, "Should I be jealous?" Um....

Monday, November 12, 2007

Needed: Vegetarian Cocktail Sausages

This isn't so much a post as it is a plea. If you're reading this and know who makes vegetarian cocktail sausages and where I can pick some up, please share the info. I am dying to make the sticky sausages in Nigella Lawson's Nigella Express for a cocktail party I am starting to plan in my head. Thank you much!

By the way, Brian and I made a black bean, corn, and avocado lasagna and blueberry carob pancakes with spelt flour from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan and the German apple cake from The Joy of Vegan Baking this weekend! More on those dishes soon.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Random Fridays: For Some Reason, A lot of Butts

* I don't need coupons for Clorox bleach or Rice-a-Roni. I need coupons for Amy's frozen pizza and Tofurky. But I never see them in newspaper circulars (mayhaps because I don't read the newspaper?). So I have discovered a super, top secret, incredibly byzantine money saving scheme. You go to the company's web site. Ok? You see if they have a link for coupons or something. They don't? Ok. You click on "contact us." You send them an e-mail and ask for coupons. They say, "OK! No probs!" And then they mail you a buttload. You can also sign up for Mambo Sprouts, whose coupon booklet I picked up at Whole Foods one day and proceeded to buy Clif Mojo bars, which I now am addicted to, San-J tamari, and other organic comestibles and junk food.

* I got PJ Harvey's new album, White Chalk, a few weeks back and I just couldn't get into it on first listen. I love PJ most when she's bugged out and sexual. But I popped the CD in on my drive to work today and it complemented the early morning, underwater, slightly disgruntled grog I'm usually in when fighting traffic. Sad but peaceful. Repetitious but hauntingly melodic, deceptively simple, songs like mantras. I just trust and believe that Polly Jean knows what she's doing more than I do.

* It was, however, love at first scent for Marc Jacobs' Daisy and me. It's perfectly floral and sweet but not treacly so. The mild citrus notes give it a tiny bit of bite. It's my favorite scent in a long time. I'm very picky about fragrances and can't wear strong, musky ones because they give me headaches just like espresso and really dark chocolate do.

I love Sephora's descriptions of fragrances, which is appropriate to post on a food blog since they read like wine descriptions (you know, crisp, buttery, like dew upon a baby platypus' buttocks--crap like that): Notes--Strawberry, Violet Leaves, Ruby Red Grapefruit, Gardenia, Violet Petals, Jasmine Petals, Musk, Vanilla, White Woods. Style--Bright. Alluring. Eternal.

Here's how they describe the Prada fragrance, which I got a sample of when I purchased Daisy: Notes--Bergamot Oil Italian, Orange Oil, Bitter Orange Oil, Mandarin Flower, Mimosa India, Rose Absolute ABS, Schinus Molle ABS LMR, Peru Balsam, Patchouli Oil LMR, Raspberry Flower, Labdanum Resinoide LMR, Tonka Bean ABS LMR, Vanilla Absolute, Musk, Sandalwood Oil. Style--Classic. Pure. Addictive. I like this one too and I am wearing it today.

I also received samples of Chance by Chanel and Lolita Lempicka (an old favorite) and L.A.M.B. by Gwen Stefani. I want to like L.A.M.B., which is full of yummy notes such as frangipani, jasmine, and violet, but also musk, which makes it smell, for lack of a better term, slightly ass-y. Brian detested it and pretty much said that the sweater I sprayed it on was now ass-y and therefore, I was too.
Picture courtesy of Sephora.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Savory Roasted Sweet Potatoes for One (or Two)

I love summer fruits, like berries and peaches, but autumn is by far my favorite time for veggies, particularly the nutritional powerhouses that are root vegetables. I’ve had a couple of sweet potatoes sitting in a bowl on my kitchen counter for a while now and was just too wiped out after work to even think of peeling, chopping, or roasting a thing. Besides their comforting, rich flavor, what’s great about sweet potatoes and some other root veggies is that you can leave them lying around for a while. Unlike that lettuce you have to get to within a week of purchasing or the bananas I refuse to eat after they go brown (another reason Brian and I are meant to be—he’ll eat the brown bananas I would either turn into bread or, more likely, trash).

I finally got around to the sweet potatoes last night. This is so easy, it’s not even cooking. If you can turn a knob and use a spoon, you can make these potatoes. They’re great on their own (that’s how I ate them last night) but would also be even more fantastic dipped in some strong, strained Greek yogurt or some sour cream (dairy or soy-based but I can’t yet endorse any edible plain soy yogurts) spiked with minced garlic or shallots that have been quickly turned in a hot pan of olive oil. These potatoes complement savory barbequed protein sources, like teriyaki tofu or blackened salmon. You could even refrigerate what you don’t eat and have the reheated potatoes with an egg or tofu scramble for a breakfast packed with protein, fiber, and hearty tastiness.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roughly cube one medium, washed, and unpeeled sweet potato and place in a large bowl. To the bowl of potatoes, add 2 teaspoons (tsp) walnut oil (or olive oil), 1 tsp. maple syrup (or brown sugar), 1 tsp. cinnamon, a scant ¼ tsp. nutmeg, ½ tsp. curry powder, and pinch of sea salt (or two pinches of kosher salt). Toss well. Add potatoes to baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil coated with cooking spray and roast for about 15 to 20 minutes, until your kitchen is filled with a yummy, autumn scent of strong spices and the potatoes are browned and, if you’re like me, just a little charred.
Picture courtesy of Wikipedia.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Random Fridays: Some Ladies For You

I’ve ordered Nigella Express from Amazon but it will not be here in time for the book signing at Williams Sonoma Columbus Circle on Sunday. It will be here in time for the Q&A and signing at Whole Foods on November 15, though. Oh dear, Nigella Lawson and me in the same grocery store would be a culinary dream come true. Much like this magazine cover might be to Brian. A busty lady in a 1950’s polka dot frock bringing him dessert on a silver tray? Died and went to heaven, that’s right.

Here's an interview with Nigella, where she details the stash she keeps by her bed to whet her appetite at all times and talks about the possibility of marketing "beds with troughs." How can you not love that.

Girl with a Satchel (GWAS) is my new favorite blog. It is the blog I would have started had I went on to indulge my magazine obsession rather than my food one. Each day, deputy editor of the Australian teen magazine, Girlfriend, Erica Bartle (nee Holburn) reviews a different magazine, rating it anywhere between a 1 (“To the recycling bin!”) to a 10 (“I’m going to laminate every page and archive it.”). She revels in all things girly, shiny, and pretty but a very sharp, smart, feminist perspective informs the reviews. The only bad thing to come of this new find is, I can’t locate the Aussie magazine Frankie in any local bookstores. From the sound it, Frankie might be a wonderful replacement for my now-deceased Jane subscription (Glamour is nice--she tries hard, means well, does the right thing, always irons her blouse, indulges in a cocktail or two--but doesn’t have the staying power through multiple reads that a subscription-worthy magazine should have). GWAS also shouts out Judy Blume’s BLOG, which I didn’t even know existed. And GWAS calls breasts "boozies!" Yay!

Myra Kornfeld’s blog, Myra’s Table, offers cooking tips and thoughts. She even writes about the class I took with her in September and recounts us all nearly passing out from all the delicious carbs we created and ingested late into the evening.